March 16th, 2010
Greetings from the Far East everybody,
Since I last wrote, a great deal happened, not the least of which is that I turned 21!! Yes, I was finally at the age where I could legally drink (even though since I arrived in Hong Kong I had been able to drink anyway; the drinking age over here is just 18), if only I actually enjoyed the taste of alcohol (keep in mind this was two whole years ago – my palate for certain alcohol’s been refined at this point). But let me start at the beginning since my last update.
Tuesday night, the committee which I was a part of, the Exchange Activities Committee, hosted our first function “West Meets East.” It was a night filled with all kinds of Eastern workshops for exchange and local students to enjoy together. Some of the things we had planned were calligraphy, kung fu, wing Chun (another form of martial arts), Chinese knot making, Chinese opera, and traditional Chinese dance. I was in the Chinese dance. I didn’t know I would be in the Chinese dance until about 4 hours prior to the event, and then I received an innocent looking e-mail…Actually, though I had a great time.
The dance we learned was incredibly simple, and the costumes we got to wear were gorgeous! If I could have kept mine for a future Halloween outfit, I totally would have. There were three students and we were only chambermaids according to the Chinese opera costumes, but the costumes seemed so elaborate anyway I certainly didn’t care! It went really well, and everyone got a huge kick out of it; overall the night was a great success. People had fun attempting to make knots, testing out their own dance skills, being amazed by the skill of the martial artists and trying their hands at the ancient art of calligraphy. Afterwards, one of my friends on the committee, Jen, and I both breathed a huge sigh of relief; we were amazed the event came together in the end and went over so well, we had almost no time to prepare for it beforehand.
And Thursday was D-day (or my birthday, whichever you prefer)! To start, I must tell you that Mom and Dad (probably the two best parents in the world, but I’m a little biased, I know) sent me a “birthday box” which I received a few days before my calendar birthday with the instructions to open the box as soon as I woke up the day off. So I got up, opened the box (I was the only exchange student so far to receive ANY packages from home, by the way) and found, not just a “Birthday Girl” button, but also a “Birthday Girl” pink, feathered tiara complete with flashing lights. I kid you not. Needless to say, I wore the tiara proudly all day (and out that night) with my lights flashing. I felt like a rock star, and the funny looks I got from some of the locals just made me grin wider.
That night, my five closest friends surprised me with a birthday cake (so sweet of them!) and then thirteen of us went to a Korean barbeque restaurant in Central called Han Wo, and the deal was that you paid a flat rate and were challenged to come away hungery (ie: eat as much as you wanted), AND we got to cook it ourselves at our table over gas grills set in the table’s surface! I have honestly never eaten so much food in one sitting! There were so many different meats, meat balls (all different kinds), vegetables, wontons, rice dishes, fruits, sushi, desserts AND ice cream!!! We all stuffed ourselves, because we had to get our money’s worth – obviously. And we rolled out of the restaurant about 2.5 hours later in veritable food comas.
But no time to rest then! Because it was my birthday and Thursday night to boot, I was hell bent on going clubbing in LKF, the bar hot spot of Hong Kong. I can now tell you, that I had the most alcohol I had ever had in my entire life up to that point (honestly, alcohol – or rather what was presented to me in college, really wasn’t all that appealing) – and it consisted of half a bottle of Smirnoff Ice. That was it. All I wanted, all I had. You may not believe me (and it’s fine if you don’t), but I had never had a full drink in my life. I didn’t really care for the taste of alcohol; I went out for the dancing, and we did a whole lot of that! It was so much fun for me; my friends, semi-good music (the majority of which was American tunes by the way), packed clubs – it made for a very memorable birthday. And the Friday morning/afternoon afterward, I was still so full from dinner that I didn’t need lunch.
Friday night was another story, though. Somehow my friend Richard had been roped into performing at a dinner for all the students in the science major. He was going to attempt (and I stress this word) to sing Cantonese pop songs while people in the crowd had to try and guess which song he was singing. I’ll tell you now, Richard was from New York, was Jewish, and did not speak a word of Cantonese or Mandarin. Along with that, he had pulled some other exchange students into this performance (no sense making a fool of yourself alone, right? The more the merrier!), and the four of them were going to sing English songs a capella for the crowd after Rich’s solo performance. So Rich tried to sing C-pop songs, and for half of them, his pronunciation was so bad that none of the local students had the slightest clue as to what he was trying to sing, until the MC would reveal the song at the end. The crowd, however, found this particularly funny once they learned what song he’d butchered. The second half when the four boys performed was hilarious, though. They sang a Britney Spear’s tune and the Backstreet Boys too, forgot the words halfway through Backstreet Boys, and continued giving it their all; hand motions, going into the crowd, clapping their hands over their heads, etc. They really hammed it up. It was epic to behold and hysterically funny; I enjoyed it immensely.
On Saturday, a group of six of us went to Central (one of the main districts on Hong Kong Island) and did a walking tour outlined in one of my guidebooks (you didn’t think I’d have just one, did you?). Using the guidebook, we went to all kinds of great touristy things; Li Yuen Streets (there’s an East and a West Street) which sold tons of cheesy souvenirs (good prices though), rode the longest people mover (escalator) in the world, saw a mosque in the middle of Hong Kong and talked to a man there who was very well informed about Bernie Madoff, Ponzi schemes, and Martha Stewart, saw the Hong Kong Zoo and Botanical Gardens, went to a snake shop and had snake soup (it tasted like chicken soup, I swear!), watched Jen drink extremely BITTER “Chinese Flu Tea” from a tea stand off the street, and that night almost all of the exchange students had a barbeque down by the ocean. It was great day topped off with a relaxed night of hanging out with everyone around the fire pits stuffing ourselves with roasted food and marshmallows.
Sunday afternoon, a group of us went to Tsim Sha Tsui (TST for short) to explore the Hong Kong Space Museum, which was definitely worth the $5 HKD we paid. It had astronaut suits, rockets (most of which said “USA,” surprisingly), a moon walk simulation (which I did; I felt like I was awkwardly floating), constellations, the inside of space ship, etc. We found some great, authentic Indian food in a mall just a few blocks from the museum, and one of my friends (who is Indian, although he’s never actually been to India) said that the food we had was definitely authentic and just like his mom made. I was excited to go back and explore the Chungking Mansions further, because the whole complex catered to Indian interests; restaurants, convenience stores, Bollywood movies, sari stores, just everything! Finally, we returned to where the museum was because the Hong Kong Cultural Center is right next door to the space center, and we ended up seeing a professional beat boxer at an outdoor concert that just happened to be going on over the weekend. He was SO good; he sounded just like all the different instruments and beats people make with actual instruments, only he did it just with his voice! Really, really impressive skill. He even had a recorder with him so he would make one sound, replay it and record another sound along with it, so at the end he had a whole song going by himself. And to end the day, we went into the Cultural Center and saw all kinds of Chinese Opera costumes on display; much nicer than the ones I got to wear for our cultural night, but I still had so much fun dressing up anyway.
Stay tuned for next week’s adventures – I had the most “local” experience of China I will probably ever have when one of my classes took a field trip. Plus, I’ll show you how Hong Kong celebrates St. Patty’s day (hint: it’s not too dissimilar from how Americans do!). Check back soon!